Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Are Misogynist Slurs a "Wonderful Gift"? A "Godsend"?

Nearly two weeks ago, radio pundit Rush Limbaugh called Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" for asking that other people help pay for contraception. The incident sparked a flurry of media coverage, and Limbaugh apologized days later.

Now, some people are suggesting that the derisive, misogynist name-calling Limbaugh used was a good thing. Limbaugh himself has been playing clips of these comments on his radio show.

For instance, this is Terry O'Neill, President of the National Organization for Women (NOW) -- which has been largely in agreement with Fluke on matters of contraception -- speaking on March 10, 2012:
"The work we have ahead of us is not gonna be easy. Right now it really seems like, you know, we've got this godsend named Rush Limbaugh who has, like dropped this thing in our lap, which is just wonderful. But the road ahead is really not gonna be completely rosy. We've got to be very clear on what the challenges are, and very clear about how we can move our own agenda forward in the current political climate."
And then there is a collection of quotes from media figures about how the incident is to the benefit of Democrats and President Barack Obama:
Columnist Sally Quinn: "Obama has just been given a huge gift by the Republicans, and by the Religious Right, and by Rush Limbaugh!" 
Columnist LZ Granderson: "It's a gift to Democrats! This was a prime opportunity for him to step up as a leader and say, "What Rush Limbaugh said was bad."" 
CNN Anchor Don Lemon: "Is this a gift to Democrats?"  
CNN Anchor Jack Cafferty: "The biggest gift to President Obama? Limbaugh's comments!" 
CNN Correspondent Jessica Yellin: "You know Democrats will say is: How could the President resist this opportunity?" 
NBC News Special Correspondent Tom Brokaw: "The more damage is done to the party, the more opportunities there are for the Democrats, like the Rush Limbaugh statements." 
TV Pundit Chris Matthews: "Over at team Obama, they’re smiling! President Obama's great fortune!"
Democratic Strategist Bob Shrum: "Obama was the big winner!" 
[audio clips end]
Limbaugh: "Anyway, the president of the NOW gang was speaking to the assembled NAGs at the convention and laughing about what I had done, laughing about what a great "godsend" it was. They're not offended, folks. They're not outraged. They're not upset over the moral depravity of any of it. They're happy. They're clapping their hands. It was a "godsend.""

This plays into the "rooting for failure" accusation. That is, the accusation where you deride your opponent by saying that they are so out of whack, so bent on gaining power, so unconcerned about doing the right thing that they view bad news for others as good news for themselves if it helps them get reelected.

Democrats were accused of rooting for failure when President George W. Bush was dealing with the violence in Iraq in 2006 and 2007 -- it was said that Democrats viewed military failure in Iraq as being good for Democratic election hopes in 2006 and 2008. And Republicans have recently been accused of rooting for failure as President Barack Obama deals with the economic situation -- it's said that Republicans view bad economic news as being good for Republican election hopes in 2012.

So, here you have any number of people suggesting (or, in the case of O'Neill, embracing the idea) that a despicable incident -- the use of misogynist slurs against Fluke -- is going to be good for the electoral prospects of Democrats or other groups' political agendas.

Is this rooting for failure? Is this Democrats viewing bad news for the country as good news for themselves?

If it isn't -- if Democrats can say things like this and it doesn't count as rooting for failure -- then I don't see how the "rooting for failure" charge can ever be logically used by them against Republicans.

Not that logical consistency is sacrosanct in politics. But, really, if this isn't reveling in bad news, then nothing is.

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